WARNING: This post contains a topic of a sacred sexual nature and is intended for married couples only. Reader discretion is advised.
Some time ago, I asked the question “Is masturbation a sexual relationship with yourself?” A great conversation ensued, and even ventured into the realm of "What is sinful"? I don’t believe the question was ever truly answered.
Before we can venture into what is a sin or not, we need to first answer the question of whether or not a sexual relationship with one’s own being is even possible.
This is not to suggest a multiple personality disorder. Having a dual personality disorder is very different from a body-and-spirit relationship - separate entities, yet learning to function together as a unit and influencing each other. The desires of the body can overcome the spirit, and the spirit can overcome the desires of the body, throughout our lives.
A relationship is defined as a state of being related, or in other words, an aspect or quality that connects two or more things or parts as being or belonging or working together.[i]
Our spirit and our body were not always connected, and when we leave mortality will once again be disconnected. [ii] As we enter into mortality, we have to learn how to live in harmony with our body. We even have to convince to stop or re-direct our body from acting contrary to the will of God. In Mormon terminology, we refer to this as “bridling our passions.” [iii]
Our relationship between our spirit and body has to be conducted in such a way as to prevent offending both God and man. Jesus Christ set this example for us in how he conducted his life.[iv]
Elder Neal A Maxwell taught:
“…the daily taking up of the cross means daily denying ourselves the appetites of the flesh. By emulating the Master, who endured temptations but “gave no heed unto them,” we, too, can live in a world filled with temptations “such as [are] common to man…” [v]
Christ taught us to “…love thy neighbor as thyself.”[vi] Loving ourselves would not be possible if we could not have a relationship with ourselves.
Every man (and woman) is a dual being, according to the scriptures. Each one of us is engaged in a spirit-to-body relationship that often desire opposite things. The effort to unify the desires of the spirit and the body in harmony with God’s plan is the work of a lifetime. [vii]
Further evidence of this type of relationship stems from the prescribed standards in the “For The Strength Of Youth” booklet, which states:
“The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife”And“Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not allow anyone to do that with you. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.”
This suggests that having a sexual relationship with the self can count as engaging in a sexual relationship outside of the marriage relationship.
There is also scientific evidence, methods and etymology that demonstrate people can have a relationship with themselves.
Dr. Stephen Gilligan PhD is a psychologist who developed “relationship with self therapy” as influenced by his mentor Dr. Milton Erickson. The theory behind this therapy is about using the events that happen in our lives, and perceiving them in a way that is more empowering for self and others. [viii]
This again affirms the idea that the beliefs that we carry with us affect our perceptions of ourselves, and thus either strengthen or weaken our self-relationships.
This form of therapy would not be possible if it were not possible to have a relationship with the self.
The word ‘narcissism’ is a psychological term for a relationship with oneself. It is by definition a “love of or sexual desire for one's own body.”[ix]
The term “self-less” denotes “self” in the third person. It means to put our “relationship” with others above our relationship with the “self.” [x]
- If we can talk to ourselves,
- relate to ourselves,
- introduce ourselves,
- be nice to ourselves,
- like ourselves,
- be mean to ourselves,
- hate ourselves,
- abuse ourselves,
- pleasure ourselves,
- ignore our own thoughts or feelings, or
- get therapy for our relationship with ourselves,
then we can have a relationship with ourselves.
As for having a sexual relationship with ourselves, logically this is also possible.
A sexual relationship is defined as a relationship involving sexual intimacy. Dr. David Schnarch said that “intimacy is like having an orgasm during intercourse. It takes two people to create it, but only one may have it.”[xi]
In terms of intimacy, sex, and sexuality, there is not just sexual intercourse. There are many ways to have sex, and bring ourselves to orgasm. Solo masturbation is one of them.
Masturbation is a sexual experience that can have such a profound effect upon our mental programming that we can condition our body and brain to primarily associate the pleasure of ‘sex’ with masturbation only - similar to pornography addiction. The effect is actually neurologically reinforced if porn is also involved.
Many couples come to therapy because one spouse prefers masturbation to intercourse, and seek help to reprogram themselves to associate sex with their husband or wife again – because one or both spouses had inadvertently trained their body and mind to prefer masturbation to sex with a person. [xii]
"So many times prophets warn about the dangers of selfishness - the inordinate and excessive concern with the self." ~ Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Conference Report, Oct. 1990, 15-19, italics added
Answer: LDS Doctrine
[i] Merriam Webster Dictionary, Definition #2, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/relation
[ii] Alma 11: 42-43
[iii] Alma 38:12
[iv] St. Matthew 4: 1-10
[v] Elder Neal A Maxwell, Overcome…Even As I Overcame, General Conference Report, April, 1987, http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1987/04/overcome-even-as-i-also-overcame?lang=eng
[vi] Matthew 22:39
[vii] 1 Cor. 6:20, Gal. 5:17, D&C 88:15
[xi] Schnarch, Dr. David, Passionate Marriage, pg. 112
[xii] Mark Gungor speaks on Masturbation, http://youtu.be/qOqKDt6R17A , Your Brain On Porn (pt. 2-6) http://youtu.be/TKDFsLi2oBk , Gungor, Mark, Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage; Harley, Hahn, The Island Syndrome, http://www.harley.com/island-syndrome/29-technology-and-the-biology-of-excessive-pornography-use.html ; 278 Korean J Radiol 11(3), May/Jun 2010,Time-Course Analysis of the
Neuroanatomical Correlates of Sexual Arousal Evoked by Erotic Video Stimuli in Healthy Males, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864854/pdf/kjr-11-278.pdf